All posts by CSJ Administrator

Part 24 – April 2017

“Concern for Our Fine Feathered Friends:  To Bee or Not to Be”

Kathleen O’Keefe CSJ on behalf of the Ecology Committee 

“Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures, are dependent on one another” (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, #42).

As E.O. Wilson puts it, humans have “an innate affinity with nature.”  We are to interact with the natural world with a profound sense of wonder and awe, along with deep appreciation to our Creator God.  In creation, there is “an order and a dynamism that human beings have no right to ignore” (L.S., #221).  “We cannot interfere in one area of the ecosystem without paying due attention to the consequences of such interference in other areas …” (L.S., #130-131).

In my research, I learned that there is a need to be able to assess the state of the environment and to use sensitive indicators to do so.  Both birds and bees act as “the canary in the coal mine” in terrestrial ecosystems.  Bird and bee monitoring have become essential parts of our adaptation to our changing global circumstances.

“The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all” (L.S., #23).

 On the David Suzuki Foundation website, I read that living beings, including birds and bees, “are moving, adapting and in some cases dying as a direct or indirect result of environmental shifts associated with our changing climate — disrupting intricate interactions among species with profound implications for the natural systems on which humans depend.”

The Nature Canada website stated that “climate change can alter distribution, abundance, behavior and genetic composition of birds” and, can affect the “timing of events like migration or breeding.”  Habitat loss and alien invasive species make matters worse for birds.  Extinction risks increase as a mismatch of birds and their environment takes place.

“How many songbirds would there be without the berries that result from pollination by bees?”  Laurence Packer’s book, “Keeping the Bees” sheds light on this important topic.  Climate change is affecting pollination by disrupting the synchronized timing at which bees pollinate.  Flowers are blooming earlier in the growing season due to rising temperatures, before many bees have a chance at pollinating the plants.  Thus, when bees finally begin pollination there is limited nectar available and competition for these valuable resources becomes more intense.

A report from Health Canada reveals that the bee population is in real danger due to the use of “new highly toxic systemic pesticides in agriculture.”  We need bees for their role in pollinating many food crops on which we depend.  David Suzuki declares, “bees are responsible for about one third of our food supply, and the consequences of not taking action to protect them are frightening.”

Pope Francis challenges each person alive today with these words: “Leaving an inhabitable planet to future generations is first and foremost up to us” (L.S., #160).  He urges us to become a part of the “bold cultural revolution.”

 Suggested Resource: 

“On care for our common home:  A dialogue guide for Laudato Si’’ Written by Janet Sommerville and William F. Ryan SJ with Anne O’Brien GSIC and Anne-Marie Jackson.  Ottawa:  St. Joseph Communications, 2016.

A Failed Promise and God’s Promise

Linda Gregg CSJ on behalf of the Federation Ecology Committee

In the world of vegetable production, purveyors of genetically modified (GM0) seeds promised great things for the global community, trumpeting greater food production and reduced pesticide use in a relatively short time. GMO seeds were the answer for a starving world. This was in the late 80’s -90’s. Canada and United States bought into that message. Western Europe did not.

The twofold promise of GMO seeds was first, to make crops immune to the effects of weed killers and inherently resistant to many pests, and second, because the plants from these seeds would grow so robustly that GMO seeds would be heralded as indispensable in feeding the population of a growing world. This would also require less spraying of crops with pesticides.

It is a failed promise.

In the past twenty years the analysis of yields from both the U.S. and Western Europe reveals little difference between crops of non-GMO seeds in Western Europe and crops using GMO seeds in the U.S. and Canada. Overall pesticide use has increased in the U.S. while in France there have been major reductions in overall pesticide use. The vaunted abundance of crop yields has failed to materialize. One would assume similar statistics in Canada. This increase occurs despite GMO being the seed of choice planted for the major crops of corn and soybeans in North America. The reality is that herbicide use on corn and soybeans has soared. Making more profits for Monsanto. Farmers cannot save their own seed and are tied contractually to purchase GMO seeds. Although Western Europe is closed to GMO, Monsanto boasts of surging markets in other places of the globe

One is reminded of the story of David & Goliath. Yet, resistance to corporate greed is not without effect. Although some markets are certainly soaring for Monsanto, there is resistance, notably in Africa, India and South America. And they are statistically significant. Just not reported as such. There are pieces of light in the darkness of corporate deceit.

One is also reminded of a vulnerable child born in a stable, in a time of deep darkness. A light that could not be quenched. A promise that was and is fulfilled. It is to believe in the light that is stronger than any darkness of heart. We are part of those pieces of light that pierce the darkness of corporate greed every time we pray for organic farmers, buy organic food and wherever we can plant heritage seeds, whether it be on a balcony or in a field. Sometimes these seeds will be planted in our home gardens, sometime they will be the seeds of hope planted in our prayers. We all are part of bringing to birth the promise of God’s kin-dom. All are needed to quench the darkness and bring the light of God’s love to birth in our world and in our time. One seed at a time.

Part 23 – December 2016


Mary Rowell CSJ on behalf of the Ecology Committee

The season of Winter calls us to quiet waiting on life hidden in the dark earth. The liturgical season of Advent similarly invites stillness as we await the re- birth of Christ in our hearts and world; Christ ever-present and yet to come.

The Biblical Tradition echoes the patterns of Earth. Wendell Berry says the Tradition “elevates just stopping above physiological necessity, makes it a requirement, an observance of the greatest dignity and mystery”. It is called, Sabbath. Sabbath is an essential part of the evolutionary and spiritual process. It is a time set aside to honour creation according to the very patterns of creation. We humans must make a choice. Berry asks, “Will we choose to participate by working in accordance with the world’s originating principles, in recognition of its inherent goodness and its maker’s approval of it, in gratitude for our membership in it, or will we participate by destroying it in accordance with our always tottering, never-resting self-justifications and selfish desires?”

These are strong words and yet what a beautiful reflection for living winter and for entering fully into the season of Advent this year.  Earth and Tradition call us into a time of rest and reflection – a time of joy. In his beautiful book, “Living the Sabbath: Discovering the Rhythms of Rest and Delight”, Norman Wirzba says, “Just as God’s Shabbat completes the creation of the Universe – by demonstrating that the proper response to the gifts of life is celebration and delight – so too should our Sabbaths be the culmination of habits and days that express gratitude for a joy in the manifold blessings of God.”

Without a sense and practice of Sabbath how easy it is to forget the gifts of God and to enter into restless, joyless and destructive patterns of being. The personal, social and ecological costs of forgetting Sabbath, Norman Wizba maintains are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. They include stressful living to the point of breaking, a loss of meaningful relationship, a lack of peace, the destruction of Earth and its accompanying rise in human poverty and suffering.

So we are invited to reclaim a sense and practice of Sabbath. Winter and Advent, our waiting times, provide the best opportunities by calling us to rest in the rhythms of life. We are gently challenged to remember who we are and who we are called to be. Like plants that will yield fruit in the Spring only if they lie dormant in Winter we are invited to a fallow season. Wayne Muller writes of this most beautifully; “We must have a period in which we lie fallow and restore our souls. In Sabbath time we remember to celebrate what is beautiful and sacred; we light candles, sing songs, tell stories, eat, nap, love. It is a time to let our work, our lands, our animals lie fallow, to be nourished and refreshed. Within this sanctuary, we become available to the insights and blessings of deep mindfulness that arise only in stillness and time. When we act from a place of deep rest, we are more capable of cultivating what the Buddhists call right understanding, right action and right effort.” May this Winter, this Advent be for us such a contemplative time; a time for God, a time for Earth, a time for one another, a time for gratitude that when Christmas comes we can once again birth Christ in the World in peace and joy. Earth teach us the way!

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Prepared by Ann Marshall CSJ on behalf of the Federation Ecology Committee

Spring is a siren call for all creation to a renewed relationship with Mother Earth to bring forth new and abundant life.  The die-hard gardeners among us are at the starting gate even before spring officially arrives.  These nurturers of the soil and spirit tell us that gardening is gratifying, and simple tasks like pruning and weeding can relieve stress, improve mood, fill one with hope, and help develop emotional wellbeing.   There is a sense of purpose and achievement in cultivating a garden, it is a vehicle for connecting with others, and spiritually it provides occasions to spend time outside communing with nature and breathing in the great outdoors.

Food for Thought is highlighting some Federation gardeners.  The following is a “taste” to tempt you to our Federation website very soon, and we gather many more pictures from our wonderful gardeners.  We’ll let you know when the website is updated.

food 01


An enthusiastic Sister Gwen Smith (Toronto) and volunteers at the community garden growing food for nutritious meals for the Mustard Seed Community.


My interest in gardening and growing up in the Netherlands certainly gave me that passion.  I enjoy beautifying and caring for the earth and its flowers, plants, veggies, trees etc. to watch them grow produce, bloom and be used for others enjoyment.  Lydia Smeets CSJ


food 02

Sister Jane Fischer, Pembroke, can hardly wait for the snow to be off the ground before she begins making plans for her precious plants – flowers and vegetables. Jane’s floral window boxes are primarily for the sisters who can’t walkout doors any more, but appreciate watching them grow and thrive in the summer. Her tomato plants are thriving in Pembroke sunshine.

Part 22 – September 2016

A Window on Hope – Priscilla Solomon, CSJ on behalf of the Ecology Committee


The Green Window symbolizes the opportunity to look beyond our present situation and see the horizon, perhaps to imagine a new horizon. Today we need horizons of hope and sustainability. I needn’t describe the present reality of excessive carbon consumption and climate change. Nor do we need a description of the desperate situation that many Indigenous Peoples in this land face. The need for reconciliation emotionally, spiritually, politically, socially and economically is very evident. So also is the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and at least 94 ways or actions to accomplish this, as recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.


There are instances of hope – of new horizons. On Sept 22, Thessalon First Nation welcomes the public to tour their Bio Centre. This is how it is described in the media advisory.  “Thessalon First Nation acquired the tree surgery in 2000, which was previously owned by the Ministry of Natural Resources. Today, the Bio Centre has the capacity to produce elite plants and trees using cutting edge technologies and can house several agricultural ventures simultaneously. Some modern equipment and facilities include, a 6000 square foot refrigeration building, 17 climate controlled greenhouses, 100 acres of arable fields, access to organically certified facilities, and an on-site biological lab….”   The tour was offered to Thessalon FN members, potential partners, investors, funders and vendors. When I spoke to Nadine Roach she said the “Thessalon First Nation” is already working with such groups as “Sustainable Forest License Holders,” “Corridors for Life” and the “50 Million Tree program.”


The Centre provides economic resources to the community, including employment. It also provides Thessalon FN a way to be a leader in sustainable development, thus meeting their traditional value of care for the land and all its inhabitants. They work with organizations that also have the desire to protect the earth, the water and the plant and animal life it sustains.


Another example is the Biinjitiwaabik Zaaging Anishinaabek (BZA) First Nation who are developing two run-of-river hydro projects on the Namewaminikan River in partnership with AXOR Group and two other Lake Nipigon First Nation communities (The AXOR Group specializes in the generation of renewable energy and green energy in Canada and across the world). The reserve is also involved in commercial fishing, forest harvesting and the construction business. Ray Nobis, a community spokesperson says the community of about 340 on-reserve band members has its own forest licence permit and has “laid out a partnership with Taranis [Contracting Group] for our construction.” Nobis also relates how they harvest lumber every year and have a strong silviculture program in place to nurture new trees for planting and sustainability.


These inspirational projects are but two of numerous First Nations initiatives for creating new hope, new horizons and a better future. Traditional wisdom bringing healing for our Mother Earth and her peoples.


Useful Websites:  biinjitiwaabik-zaaging-anishinaabek/